Thursday, April 24, 2014

Listening with our hearts

"Do you talk to Jesus, Papa?"

"Every day," Pappa Bear said. "All day."

"Does he talk back?"

"In a way. It's like he whispers in my heart."

"In your heart? I thought we listened with our ears?"

"We do, but to hear Jesus, it takes a special kind of listening."

-God Gave us Easter by Lisa Tawn Bergren

I'm in the middle of reading Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo because my friend wants to see the movie this weekend. It is blowing my mind. I'm not the type to reference Jesus or my religion in my every day life and moments, but I have a deep faith rooted in my religious upbringing. I pray and I attribute my blessings and life lessons to a higher power and I have conversations with my kids regarding Jesus in the simplest of terms. With Easter just passing, this book is having a really huge impact on me. I completely believe this kid went to Heaven, and I'm loving the visual picture he is presenting to me, especially now that I can relay this to my kids from another kid's perspective. I wish I would have read it before Easter. It would have been a good aid in teaching my kids--as the boy in the book so simply puts--that Jesus dies so we can go live with his dad one day. But since I hadn't sunk my teeth into this book yet, we relied on a different book I came across at Walmart, quoted above, God Gave us Easter. It was definitely a nice starting point to discuss Jesus' role in our lives.

A few weeks prior to Easter, we hauled out the Easter baskets and plastic eggs and bunny ears and started decorating our house for the holiday. We hid the plastic eggs and went on egg hunts, which really is more accurately described as placing eggs out in plain sight and then collecting them again since neither boy is really too interested in investing the energy to unearth them in hidden places yet. We also planted ourselves at the kitchen table at various times throughout the weeks and crafted. Egg garlands made from paint sample cards. Collage eggs. Egg carton wreaths. Egg-shaped bunnies. Chalk-resistant eggs. Stained glass crosses. Dyed easter eggs with homemade Kool-Aid dye that managed to stain their hands as well. And a keepsake project with their foot prints as Easter bunnies.

I dressed them in their Easter outfits and conducted a mini photo shoot. Bribery of candy was involved. And lots of begging (from me) and goofing off (from them).

We made the requisite trip to the mall to visit the Easter Bunny. I was too cheap to spend $15 on two 5x7s, so I stepped off the set (as required by the "mall policies") and snapped some with my iPhone. And all week long I was introducing the idea to the boys that sometimes the Easter Bunny is far too busy to be able to make every Easter egg hunt and party. In these instances, he calls upon his friends for help. This happened to be the case the Saturday before Easter when we had planned on visiting the bunny at the VFW. Daddy received a phone call from the Easter Bunny himself asking if he could please fill in for him. The boys didn't question this at all and were thrilled that their daddy was friends with the Easter Bunny. They told everyone who was willing to listen or within earshot that he was their daddy, beaming with pride. Me? I was barely able to contain my laughter at how absurd my husband looked in his bunny costume.

As with every holiday in our family, we have traditions we follow. Our Easter tradition started before we were parents, when Dave and I were newlyweds, looking forward to the future when we'd spend the holiday with our children. We created scavenger hunts for each other to locate our baskets. We'd hand write the clues on scraps of paper and tuck them in plastic eggs, each clue leading to another clue and, ultimately, to our hidden basket full of goodies. Candy, flip flops, books, clothes, etc. Each Easter morning I was giddy, anticipating the day we'd be conducting these traditions with our kids. Now fast forward to the present day. Spencer awoke Easter morning, rushing into the living room to sneak a peak at what the Easter Bunny delivered. He declared later that he was right and Ashton was wrong: the Easter Bunny did, in fact, hide the baskets again this year. Grinning, I played along with the charade. "He hid the baskets AGAIN?! That bunny sure is a sneaky one!" The scavenger hunt began with a note written on bunny stationery, the first clue described in a p.s. at the end of the letter. Spencer scrambled to the destination, Ashton reluctantly following. Ashton was as ambivalent to the exercise as Spencer was excited. Spencer rushed to each egg, listened to the clue, and then was off to locate the next egg. Ashton didn't pick up on the excitement until the hidden baskets were revealed and he was kneeled before them with all the loot spilling out.

We made the trek back to my Aunt Velda's farm that morning, picking up Aunt Hopey along the way. The rainy morning made way for a warm spring day. We shed layers and basked in the warmth of the sun. As soon as we stepped out of the truck, we were greeted by little Gwenny, my cousin's daughter, who took Ashton's hand and lead him to a dirt pile where the cousins were already busy playing with trucks and shovels. He contentedly played there for a long while, not to be coaxed away. Spencer, on the other hand, discovered the farm animals and he settled right in, feeding them hay out of his hands. He informed Dave that he'd be there all day and to come get him when we were ready to leave. He was pretty true to his word, leaving only to eat and collect eggs during the big Easter egg hunt. My mom, having just moved across the country, was absent for the first holiday possibly ever, and that was definitely a strange thing. But I love being surrounded by the family that has known me since I was a little girl. That makes a holiday feel like a holiday to me.

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